Sunday, April 25, 2010

For The Love of Teachers- a note to parents

I've been thinking a lot about this one... whether or not to write it for fear of offending anyone. I came to the conclusion that it was a good decision and that my intention is a genuine one made not to offend, but to offer insight. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Dear Parents,

First off, I don't have children of my own. I have not raised a baby. I haven't changed a diaper since my long lost babysitting days (though I continue to babysit, it is not often infants). My viewpoint comes soley from that of a professional teacher, and as a person who cares very much for all 150 children that I 'take care' of yearly.

I feel some clarifications and advice are needed to all parents in hopes that our 'tomorrow's future' will be brighter. Do I think I am perfect? NOT AT ALL. But as a teacher I get the advice without the ability to return some in most cases, so here is my chance.

First off I want to thank all the supportive parents who write with words of encouragement, who sign your emails with a "Thanks for all you do!", who confront us with questions about your child's grade without accusing us of grading unfairly, who understand that your children will twist the truth to cover themselves to make us look at fault, and despite them being your children you still support us and come to us for the truth before making any decisions. Thank you to those parents who enter parent teacher conferences with open minds, who understand that we love your children too and do our VERY BEST to get to know them as individuals on a daily basis, who recognize that when your child is upset or sad that WE feel that sadness and will spend the weekend worrying about them. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Now for some clarifications and minute advice.

1. Have reasonable expectations of us. We are humans too. We want to get to know ALL of our students, but unlike parents who often have only a couple, we have 150 of them and only one year to get to know who they are, what they need, what their strengths are, and where they need additional support. In a 90 minute block with only 30 minutes of instructional time and 60 minutes of work time, your child would fairly receive 2 minutes of one on one. Any more than those 2 minutes would take away from other children's one on one time. Like I said- we do our very best to meet every student's needs but it isn't always possible to meet the highest expectations- even if the child requires extra help.

2. Have sit down dinners and talk with your kids. So many times we hear of kids going to parties on the weekend, or having no limitations. This is TERRIBLY damaging to your child. It is these children who tend to not do as well in school, who express nonchalance, who could 'care less' about assignments. As teachers, we are able to curb some of this but it's a tough battle. Set expectations high for your child and they will rise to meet them. Don't let them go to parties if you know there won't be parents there, or if there will be illegal substances. You set the example for them first and foremost.

3. They will never desire our approval the way they desire yours. This goes off of the last statement. As a high school teacher we are unable to fix a situation for a child that has been broken for them. Kids want YOUR guidance and honestly (though it may not seem like it) they WANT the boundries and the guidance from you. One day, they will thank you for them. I have my parents to thank for this one... had they not kept a tight lease on me I would have never have accomplished what I have today and would not be striving for more.

4. PLEASE don't give up on your kids or let them 'be responsible for their grades'- SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many parents let their kids 'go' once they get to high school, which is a time that they need just as much help as they did in elementary school but in different ways. Parents of kids- EVEN the really smart kids- eventually realize that a 15 year old isn't capable of being responsible for their own grades, but often times it's too late and the damage is already done. Good Lord, some COLLEGE students aren't able to be responsible for their own grades. Keep checking in with them about their grades. Email us to find out information AS SOON AS you suspect you aren't getting the whole story. You are the number 1 link to helping your child succeed. Don't give up on them. Don't let them be responsible quite yet... they have their whole lives to do that. All you have to do now is check in and set boundries, and if they don't meet your expectations, then set consequences and don't bend even if they try to convince you otherwise.

5. Hold your child responsible. If your child gets a grade of incomplete or 'not handed in' there's a pretty good chance that your child's teacher has verbally reminded them at least 10 times BEFORE the work was due, posted it in the classroom, told them to write it in an agenda book, perhaps posted it online, and maybe handed out homework reminders AFTER it didn't come in on time. At the point that you understand that your child has had a moment of irresponsibility, hold them responsible for this action so that it won't happen again. Don't make excuses for them, and more importantly don't expect us to follow your child home with a 'homework banner' or to tattoo the assignment on your child's forehead (haha)... just hold them responsible. Your child knows not to do it again, You don't have to worry as much, and we don't have to waste instructional time defending ourselves. Win-win!

6. Don't swear in front of your child. EVER. Your child will potentially pick up and use swear words anyhow, but when you swear in front of them they will more than likely tend to use it in the classroom. Like I said before- you're their role models and they will do what you do. When this happens it affects other children, and wastes instructional time when the teacher has to stop and discipline your child. Even if the teacher fills out a referral after class it still takes away from their time that they could be spending prepping or making really fantastic lessons for your child.

Okay, that's about all. Just remember that we call them 'our kids' too because whether or not we have our own kids, we love and care about them and want the VERY best for them. You children come to us with personal issues about boyfriends and girlfriends, they share with us their goals, their dreams, and their let downs. We stay after to let them cry and we hand them tissues and reassure them regardless of the issue. We know when they have games and we go to them. We remember to find out if they win, or what position they play. We attend their plays, awards ceremonies, concerts and shows. We encourage them to be better and we believe in them. We accept them and don't judge them if they aren't the smartest or fastest, or if they don't make the best decisions. Each and every day we welcome them with open arms. We stand outside of our classrooms to make sure that someone greets them with a 'good morning' and says 'have a great day' every afternoon. We give them our own food when they forget lunch or don't have money to buy it. We purchase our own supplies when the school doesn't have enough because even if the country won't acknowledge the importance of schools being funded, we understand that children deserve the best. We come early to work and stay hours after school so that your child can have the opportunity to make up work, even on days that we haven't slept much the night before, or have things to do that we cancel so that we can stay.

Please- as a parent- do your very best to give just as much to your children, and from them, expect as much. They are not grown at 14, or 18 or sometimes even beyond that. We don't give up on them, or swear in front of them, or let them get away with doing minimal. Please don't either.

From a caring teacher,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stay at Home Person

You'll need a glass of wine to help swallow this one kids! haha.

This is my new goal... to one day be a "Stay at Home Person". Perhaps I'll have kids, perhaps I won't have kids. All I know is that I want an easier life and being a stay at home person sounds like the thing for me. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you why in a concise series of points. Please see below.

1. Staying at home with no job and no grad school will allow me to do BASIC things such as: sleep, eat without doing reseach at the same time or prepping for lessons, shower without having to figure out a way to multi-task while in the shower. You might laugh and think that I'm kidding. I'm not.

2. Staying at home will allow me time to exercise, or have things like 'energy'.

3. Staying at home will allow me time to do things like run errands, such as buying food to live off of before I'm down to dried split peas and a stale tortilla shell.

4. Staying at home will allow me to spend time with my cats who now think that I'm 'the stranger' who feeds them while running around like a rabid animal grabbing at things before flying back out the door.

5. Staying at home will allow me time to clean, vaccum, or lie on my couch enjoying my clean apartment.

6. Staying at home will allow me to rest enough to have energy to actually wash my face before sleeping in day old makeup, or brush my teeth EVERY night before I go to bed.

7. Staying at home will allow me time to cook meals that don't involve cereal and soymilk.

8. Staying at home with kids (for shiz and giggles let's pretend that I'm as selfish as that earth murdering family the Duggers- who, btw, have now taken up the slots of NINE sets of people who might have wanted to have kids without over populating the world but now can't... okay... rant over and breathe) as I was saying, EVEN if I had 18 kids like an insane person it would STILL be 72 LESS kids than I deal with on a daily basis.

9. Staying at home would allow me time to read, or crochet, or perhaps paint more than one painting every 4 months.

10. Staying at home would mean HAPPINESS!

Why the sudden desire to be a "Stay at Home Person"? Because I've spent almost every minute of every day for the last several weeks doing research for teaching, or grad school. And I babysit. And I try to be a practicing artist when I can.

Yesterday... had to stay late at work 1.5 hours. Ran errands and went to bank after, got home at 6pm, ate, passed out by 6:30-9pm, got back up and drank a cup of coffee and did work until 2am, passed out, woke back up at 4:45 to continue to do work until leaving for work at 6am-2pm. Did grad work until 3:30pm. Grabbed food on the road and ate while driving to grad class. Grad class 4:30-7:10, then to the library to do research until 9pm. Then met up to drop off painting for art show tomorrow. Finally got home at 10pm.

PUNCH. ME. IN. MY. FACE. Tomorrow will be just as bad.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's Been a While...

Sorry I've been gone for so long... for a while I didn't have internet, and then I got EXTREMELY busy and overwhelmed with work and school, and then I climbed back up the long rope that dangles over the end of the earth and here I am.

So some exciting stuff if happening in my artsy world.

Fisrt off, I have the Phoenix Bike event coming up soon in which a painting of mine will be on display and then given to the winner of a writing competition. Whether or not I feel he deserves it is something else... cough cough NOT... but that's another story. I'm just hoping that it will be an opportunity to get my name out there, perhaps talk with some people who might be interested in my art, perhaps hand out some business cards... who knows.

Secondly, I will be finding out how I did in the competition for the Fall for the Book poster design. I'm sure that I will be up against a lot of digital art work, and I know that they have narrowed it down to the last 3 submissions, but I don't know if I'm in that bunch. I did a hand drawn/painted poster design which means that it isn't totally perfect since even tracing doesn't mean exact lettering, but it IS better than the one submitted last year. Whether or not I win, it is good to get my work out into the work and at least TRY to win. If I'm lucky and win I'll get $500 and my work will be used to promote the festival which would be super amazing. If not- oh well. You can't win if you don't try. I'll try to get a picture of it posted sometime soon.

Lastly, I'm entering another competition with a friend of mine. We spent about 5-7 hours yesterday spread out on sheets of cardboard on his hardwood floor with paints and canvases and brushes. He JUST moved so we had boxes around us and his paintings propped up around the walls as we fought the new found heat in bare feet. We took some pictures to document our artmaking- just as Pollock, or the Surrealists did. One day I hope that grandchildren look at those photos of me in my rolled jeans, barefeet, tank top, and scarf in my hair with paintbrushes held like a wand or stuck in a funny pose above my upper lip and think that I had a fantastic life.

I DO have a fantastic life. It is beautiful and filled with just the right amount of friends that bring creative and unique aspects into my own life which make me feel as if I'm extremely blessed. I hope to never give that up or let it fade. Thankfully I have supportive people who encourage me to be who I am and don't judge me or criticize me.

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Meditation and Free Association

As a Christian I comprehend that there is something bigger out there all the time, and yet my beliefs also include an environmental side, and the idea that there is an energy in each of us that- when tapped into- can bring us relaxation, peace and understanding of who we are, and who we are in relation to the human race.

Tonight I made my first attempt (with any understanding of what I'm doing) at meditating. I started online to find a video on youtube. I learned that mantras are thoughts of the minds, and the goal of meditating is to let go of thoughts- so no mantras. The focus should be on the breath, but not in a concentrated way.... just accept and focus on the breathing in that it exists within us. When thoughts begin to take hold, go back to the breath. Eventually there is to be a point reached where the mind is totally relaxed. I didn't quite get there, but I noticed a HUGE difference in how I felt afterwards. Much more relaxed and in tune with the world and within my body. Yoga does this for me sometimes as well.

Another way to tap into a part of your brain- your subconscious- is through a 'free writing' exercise. The Surrealists used to do this, and I do this with my students and most recently did it because my grad teacher had us do it. Bascially- for 10-20 minutes you write out whatever pops into your head. It may be observations, thoughts, sounds you hear, a repetative letter or word... the only thing is that you don't stop, you don't go back and read it until the end, and you don't worry about punctuations or capitalizations. Write quickly and keep going.

Here is one of my free writings as an example. It will be different from yours, or someone elses. This is MY subconscious. Enjoy!

"In the problematic schematic recession of click writing formidable comprehension i can't spell smell of the trusting lightworthiness within the orange world of wonder expresses thoughtfully the unexplained gray shadow of the night sky with pulses and breaks as glitches to neurons and electricity the pulsing escapades of relieved tension breaks our spirits and crushes our diminishing capabilities for love and acceptance or perhaps forgiveness of pain within the deeper parts of our subconscious the tactile infantile memory forgets as if the world doesn't exist as a sphere but floats gloriously random as though fields bloom for them. silence lays sleeping impossible in line to show its face and shock the world into awareness and white light blasting from a power struggle source. thankfully there isn't a chance in hell, awareness brings truth and only privy people should accept its fate within their lives, the artists, writers, poets, always the ones who are misunderstood."

So try them out. Let me know how it goes! If you end up with a cool free writing, feel free to post it in the comments.

Peace and Love,

Day 14 of winter break #2

So the snow has been super beneficial in my doing things like relaxing and making art. After hours (and hours and hours and hours and hours) of working on my latest piece, I've finally finished! I'm calling it "Through Snowy Branches". It was done from a photo that my grandmother took of her backyard in the winter time. When she passed away a few months ago, some of her (millions of) photos of nature came to us. My dad let me have a couple of them. I sold the one I painted ("Winter Silhouette") already, and now the other is for sale on my etsy site. I like to think of my grandmother when I do my art. She was a practicing (and professional) artist, and art was something that the two of us bonded over. I like to think that she'll help me in making my art sell over the course of my life. I know she's watching over me, and I know that she's happy I'm working on my art.

In other news, Stephe has been drawing up a storm and is going to try to start his own etsy site. He does realistic and surrealistic kinds of environments that have a repetative elephant in it somewhere. I've been teaching him about shading and the importance of creating a background in some of his pieces. He's been doing a fantastic job and is a quick study. I'll get some of his art up here soon.

To everyone, happy (pre) valentines day! The holiday might be silly, but sharing love certainly isn't, and according to the Beatles.... it's all you need. =)

From one of my favorite movies...Across the Universe.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Pieces

In my excess of time- due to the snow weeks we've had off, I've had a chance to work on some of my art. I've posted a few more pieces on etsy in the past few days. They're below. Thanks for taking the time to look!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Life in Love with Stephen

For those of you who don't know much of my relationship with Stephe might not realize that my boyfriend is a quadriplegic- which means that he has limited use of all "four" of his limbs. I put "four" because that's the definition... but he is missing his right leg from the mid-thigh down.

HOW HE BECAME PARALYZED- About 6 years ago he was riding his motorcycle with his friends at nighttime and his friend was having some problems with his bike and waved Stephe ahead. Stephe looked back to make sure his friend was okay, and in doing so missed that the road curved off to the left. He went straight into the guardrail at about 60 mph, breaking both his motorcycle and his body into pieces. His right leg was amputated within a couple days since it took most of the impact, and he spent a long time in recovery. But Stephe is one of the most inspiring and motivated guys I know and he doesn't let things stop him, so a little over a year ago I met him 5 years after his crash.

HOW WE MET- Online. Stephe sent me a message, and I was intrigued. I honestly wasn't sure how the date would go, and I was SO nervous to go on a date with someone in a wheelchair. Part of me felt that it was the nice thing to do, but he was very handsome in the pictures. I THOUGHT we would just become friends. BOY WAS I WRONG! Stephe and I spent hours talking at the Starbucks, and then he took me around Occoquan and when I suggested dinner he was all for it. We even joked as we drove past some really pretty houses, "Oh when we get married and have a million kids we can live there!" "Yeah, I totally think our parents would be supportive of us getting married on the first date." We're not engaged... yet. ;)

STRUGGLES- We have trouble every so often with doing things with the ease that we'd like to.
Parking lots- Stephe has a van that he drives from his wheelchair (that locks in) with hand controls. He gets into it using a ramp. A few times people have parked across the white diagonal lines in the parking lots and have made it impossible for Stephe to get back into his van because he can't get the ramp out. I have had to back his van out while standing in the place where the driver seat would be, while using hand controls. Not exactly the safest thing.

Other Drivers- Stephe has rods in his neck and therefore can't turn his head very far. Usually if I'm in the car I help him with traffic, though he's capable of doing it himself... it's just easier for me to look. Sometimes people have been really rude and not let him over. Because he uses hand controls to accelerate and brake, he can't always use his turn signal, but even when he has them on some people are really rude. It is in these times that I have sometimes lost my cool and shown people my... 'finger version of the washington monument'.
Furniture- Because Stephe's power wheelchair is higher, we sometimes have trouble getting him under tables (especially at restaurants). At my apartment I have a table with adjustable legs that I got from IKEA, so he can roll right under with no problem. I've also had to put my couch on risers, which makes it looks like I have stadium seating in my living room, but I've gotten used to it.

KITCHEN STUFF- Stephe's hand's don't work the same way as everyone else's, so we have certain mugs that work for him better. One was from IKEA and the other I got at an Art Festival. He loves his coffee just like I do, so these were a necessary investment. =) Also, he needs lighter silverware because he can't grasp it the same way. He's fine with my stuff, but at restaurants sometimes it's tough.

SNOW- Today I went out to shovel out his vehicle (from the 30 inches of snow we received) and a nice family that lives upstairs saw me with my kid sized shovel and came out and helped me! It still took about an hour, but it would've taken me for FOREVER if they hadn't helped.

With Stephe, I do the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, the dishes and help him get ready for bed, and up in the morning. Sometimes it feels like a lot of work, but Stephe is always so understanding about everything, so usually I don't mind.

WHAT STEPHE DOES FOR ME He tries. If I need something from the grocery store and I'm busy, I'll ask Stephe to run out and get it and he does. He returns movies for me. Recently when my car acted up, Stephe drove me 45 minutes north to drop off my car at 10pm, and then 3 days later took off work early to take me back up to get it. He tries to bring over the dishes to the counter when he can. He gets he own toothbrush ready and brushes his teeth without my help because we got the toothpaste dispenser that he can just push down on.
BUT, more importantly, he supports me. He helps me with my art, and does art with me. He doesn't make fun of me being a pescetarian and went pescetarian himself after we started dating. He doesn't mind that I have 6 feral cats eating on my porch, or that I have two cats of my own. He doesn't complain when my apartment isn't neat. He tells me that he 'has the most beautiful girlfriend' when I'm in mismatched pj's and haven't showered and have no make-up on. He makes me laugh all the time. This year he did my taxes for me. He takes me to fun shows, like Chicago and Sheer Madness and RENT because he knows I love them. He is more thoughtful than anyone else I've ever been with, and makes me feel beautiful and loved all the time.

So, are things difficult sometimes? Of course. Sometimes I get really frustrated, and sometimes it makes me sad that we can't do things like go for a hike. But the truth of the matter is, when it comes to someone I want to be with for forever, Stephe is fantastic and we get along wonderfully. We don't argue, we don't yell... we just love one another in all that we are. I accept him and he accepts me, good and bad. And that's how it should be.